Speeches Are Used to Persuade. Discuss.

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Speeches are used to persuade. Discuss.

The art of persuasive speaking, or rhetoric, has been practiced in the West since the fifth century BC. It traditionally deploys three key elements: ethos, being the speaker’s character, standing and credibility; logos, being the rational appeal of the speech; and pathos, being the emotional appeal. Devices typically used in effective rhetoric include: inclusive language, repetition, metaphor, imagery and historical references. Depending on the context, audience, and the speaker’s objectives, the elements and devices are deployed in different ways and have varying degrees of significance.

As public figures with longstanding reputations for political activism within their respective countries, all three speakers considered in this essay (Paul Keating, Noel Pearson and Aung San Suu Kyi) have a strong and positive ethos (although their political opponents may contest this). Each of them also exhibits a high degree of logos in their speeches, utilising various rhetorical devices to rationally convey their messages and persuade their audiences. However, the differing contexts for each speech has influenced the specific devices used, and also determined the degree and use of pathos.

Paul Keating’s speech was given on Remembrance Day. As a memorial speech it is contemplative and respectful. Rather than setting out to persuade an audience by making an overt political argument, Keating’s objective is to encourage a sense of Australian national identity through the values he embodies in the Unknown Soldier. Even as Keating honours the Unknown Soldier’s individual sacrifice, he also redeploys him as a representative figure. Not only does the Soldier represent the thousands that have gone to war for Australia, he also represents the values that are upheld in Australian society.

By listing a number of unknown details in the introductory paragraphs, Keating manages to humanise the Unknown Soldier in a particularly compelling way. His first paragraph, which commences with the inclusive statement ‘We do not know’, immediately draws us into the narrative. Repeated five times in the second paragraph the phrase encourages the audience to feel emotionally connected to the Unknown Soldier as they can relate to different aspects of his life and death, such as knowing that he will be forever lost to his family.

After providing an historical context for the Soldier’s service in the third paragraph, Keating then makes the powerful and inclusive assertion ‘He is all of them. He is one of us.’ This allows the audience to relate to the Unknown Soldier’s commonality and his individuality. He is one of thousands of Australians who have served and died in wars, yet he is just an ordinary person.

With regard to the horrors of war, Keating then introduces a paradox within his speech – ‘we might think this Unknown Soldier died in vain’. He then addresses and resolves the paradox he creates by introducing the values that we have all been taught, aspire to and find embodied in the Soldier’s sacrifice. Some of these values are represented in Keating’s line: ‘to endure hardship, to show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves and to stick together’.

This positive focus on Australian values, identity and ‘mateship’ respects the sacrifice of the Unknown Soldier, and all other soldiers involved in war, but does not glorify war. Keating’s emphasis on the ordinary people involved in the war and how their sacrifices created peace and security ends the speech on a positive note. While his conclusion of the speech with ‘us’, just as he commenced with ‘we, encourages the audience to feel connected to the Unknown Soldier and the values presented in his speech.

Unlike Keating’s speech, Noel Pearson’s speech has a more overt political agenda; being the exposure of inequalities experienced by Indigenous Australians and the lack of recognition they have in Australian society....
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